education

The Common Core Curriculum Void

Jun 3, 2014

Right now, America's schools are in a sprint. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards. That means new learning benchmarks for the vast majority of the nation's young students — millions of kids from kindergarten through high school. And, for many of them, the Core Standards will feel tougher than what they're used to. Because they are tougher.

A new pioneer has just planted its flag on the ed-tech frontier: the country of Trinidad and Tobago. Its government this week announced the creation of a "national knowledge network" to promote free online learning in partnership with Khan Academy and Coursera. The initiative is part of a broader national strategy of investment in education.

A group of Louisville teachers plans to file a class-action lawsuit claiming the governor and Kentucky General Assembly violated a contractual obligation by deliberately underfunding the teachers' retirement fund by billions of dollars.

Lebanon attorney Theodore Lavit said the lawsuit will name Governor Steve Beshear, Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo as defendants in the suit. The potential plaintiffs will seek $11 billion  to restore money to the underfunded Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, which covers about 140,000 teachers across the state, according to sources familiar with the prospective case.

"Some experts believe that in four, maybe five years, at the present funding rate, that it'll be impossible to recapture what's needed," Lavit told Kentucky Public Radio. "There are quite a few teachers upset about the present state of affairs."

Currently, the KTRS pension is funded at about 50 percent, placing it well below what experts say is a pension's proper balance of its assets to its unfunded liabilities—the difference between how much money it has on-hand versus how much it has to pay out in benefits.

Put another way: It's the difference between how much money a household has in its bank account versus how much it owes on its credit card bills. KTRS has about $13.9 billion in such unfunded liabilities—a number that is expected to swell exponentially to about $23 billion in 2015 when new federal accounting standards kick in, according to the most recent numbers.

Members of a Hardin County music group got a big surprise Wednesday.

The North Hardin High School Marching Band has been selected to perform in next year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Macy’s Parade officials worked secretly with school personnel to surprise band members with the news Wednesday afternoon at the school in Radcliff.

Band members were called to the gym for the surprise announcement that they were selected out of hundreds of applicants to be one of ten marching bands to participate in the 2015 parade.

Lexington’s Paul Laurence Dunbar High School marching band is performing in this year’s Macy’s Parade.

The government released the latest national test scores on Wednesday, and the news isn't good: 12th-graders are headed toward graduation, but many don't have the skills they need to succeed in college or work.

The test is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often referred to as "the nation's report card."

There's plenty of anxiety in the U.S. over getting into a top college. But a new Gallup poll suggests that, later in life, it doesn't matter nearly as much as we think. In fact, when you ask college graduates whether they're "engaged" with their work or "thriving" in all aspects of their lives, their responses don't vary one bit whether they went to a prestigious college or not.

Hardin County Schools

A financial gift from a corporation will allow a Hardin County high school to offer a curriculum designed to help students excel in the STEM fields.

Dow Corning Corporation announced Monday that it’s donating $25,000 to implement the Project Lead The Way program at John Hardin High School. Project Lead the Way is a non-profit effort that designs programs related to science, technology, engineering, and math that are used in over 5,000 schools in the country.

Hardin County Schools spokesman John Wright says Project Lead the Way will open doors for students who excel in the program.

“North Hardin, John Hardin, and Central Hardin engineering students will now get the prerequisites that they need at their home high schools that will allow them to go to our new Hardin County Schools’ Early College and Career Center that opens in August.”

Kentucky high school students worried about the math portion of a statewide assessment test have another reason to be stressed.

The Kentucky Department of Education this week announced it will no longer allow students to use calculators that have the algebra software package Zoom Math while taking the ACT Compass test. That test is taken by high school seniors who haven’t met college-readiness benchmarks on the ACT test taken during their junior year.

Northern Kentucky University Math Professor Steve Newman helped lead the charge against Zoom Math, and says students who knew little algebra were able to use the software to get passing grades on the test.

“And that doesn’t mean they know anything about mathematics, know how to solve equations, or do all the kinds of things that colleges require them to know.” Newman told WKU Public Radio.

Newman says he helped lead several experiments at NKU that looked into the impact of Zoom Math on a test-taker’s ability to get the right answer on the ACT Compass test. The Kentucky Department of Education also conducted similar studies.

The Department of Education has released a list of 55 colleges and universities facing investigation under Title IX for their handling of sexual abuse claims.

Releasing the list is described as an unprecedented move. NPR's Brian Naylor says the list "starts at Arizona State University and ends at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine."

Abbey Oldham

Cathy Roemer-Garrison is always looking out for innovative ways to teach.  She’s an English as a Second Language instructor at Moss Middle School in Warren County. 

"I came across on the Internet something about children reading to shelter animals, and that the research showed it was successful at improving reading fluency and building self-esteem, which is a perfect fit for my ELL kids," explained Roemer-Garrison.

She took the idea to Principal David Nole, who admits he was skeptical at first.

"I thought, 'How's that going to improve what we're doing?'  The more I listened the more I realized she was going about the heart of the reader, and that's just developing the love to read," Nole said.

And so it began.  An initiative called Paw Pals: Literacy with Love.  Every Wednesday, Roemer-Garrison visits the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society with a group of ELL students, or English Language Learners.  Most are from war-torn countries, but at the shelter, those memories are overcome with smiles and laughter.

On this visit, a shelter employee brings out eight-week-old long-haired Chihuahuas.

Seventh graders Graciella Ventura of El Salvador, and Soe Meh and Bway Baw both of Thailand, sit in a circle, each holding a puppy and a book.  Storytime is about to begin.  Ventura has a wide grin as one of the puppies licks her face.

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